FG Senator says crime bosses in Border region acting with impunity

Fuel laundering and sale of illegal cigarettes worth hundreds of millions of euro a year

Senator Paul Coghlan: “crime overlords” involved in fuel laundering in the Border region seemed able to act with scant regard for the law.

Senator Paul Coghlan: “crime overlords” involved in fuel laundering in the Border region seemed able to act with scant regard for the law.

 

A Fine Gael Senator has said “crime overlords” involved in fuel laundering in the Border region seemed able to act with scant regard for the law.

Senator Paul Coghlan told a meeting of the British Irish Parliamentary Assembly in Dublin the illegal trade was worth hundreds of millions of euro each year.

“Too much time has elapsed for the law to be held in disregard as apparently it is. These crime overlords seem to be able to act with impunity, certainly with scant regard for the law,” he said.

Mr Coghlan was the chairman of an assembly committee that drew up a report on smuggling and laundering which has recommended a new taskforce to counteract it.

The assembly comprises members of the Oireachtas, the Westminster parliament, the Scottish Parliament, the National Assembly for Wales, and the Northern Ireland Assembly. The High Court of Tynwald and States of Guernsey and Jersey are also represented.

Fine Gael TD Patrick O’Donovan said “an element of appeasement” of some republicans was allowing illegal activity to continue.

“To borrow the words of one individual who frequents around here: they haven’t gone away, you know. And they haven’t gone away,” he said. “They’ve morphed now into people that are peddling fuel and cigarettes and having a very, very plush life on the backs of it.”

However, Sinn Féin MLA Barry McElduff said a letter from the Garda Commissioner stated “An Garda Síochána hold no information or intelligence to support the assertion that the Provisional IRA” was involved in such activities. He said his party unequivocally condemned fuel laundering, cigarette smuggling and counterfeiting.

In other business at the assembly meeting, Independent Senator John Crown said there was never a year during the Troubles when more people died from violence than from smoking-related diseases. “Really what we’re trying to achieve is the end of smoking and the bankruptcy of the tobacco industry. That’s actually what we’d like to achieve,” he said.

The victims of tobacco smuggling were the people who died from smoking-related diseases, rather than Government departments which might lose taxation revenue. “There is a subtext being offered by many . . . that somehow if we try to tackle the tobacco problem by turning the squeeze on those who are, quote unquote, legitimate sales people for this really evil industry that somehow we are facilitating smuggling.”

He said the principal beneficiaries of tobacco smuggling were people involved in the tobacco industry. “It’s ‘Big Tobacco’. Overwhelmingly the product which is smuggled is legitimate, quote unquote, product which is manufactured by, quote unquote, legitimate companies who love smuggling.”

Prof Crown said this was because their product was being sold and it was a “cheap way to addict new children”.

He told the assembly meeting in the Seanad chamber in Leinster House that legislation to introduce plain packaging was under “sustained highly immoral assault by foreign forces”.

If plain packaging was introduced across Ireland and Britain the issue of smuggling could be tackled more effectively, he said. He appealed to neighbouring parliaments to introduce similar legislation to what is being proposed in Ireland.